I'd like to know what you more knowledgeable Canes fans think the Canes should be doing this year. I've seen discussion on one hand that says the Canes must sign another proven NHL defenseman or they'll be pathetic, and on the other hand that the Canes need to find out what their young players can do. I've seen people look at the current roster and figure out what lines they'd like to see, plugging prospects into lines with established players. But I haven't seen anything that seems to me to make sense of the Canes' plan to rebuild. I'd like to ask about that after suggesting a way to think about it.
If the Canes are rebuilding, it may make sense to think about personnel decisions and line assignments primarily in terms of the future rather than just this season and who will fit best in the existing holes in the lineup.
If so, I'd suggest it's important: 1) to decide on a young core of key NHL players to keep for the long term and 2) to find out which of the other young prospects can turn into good NHL players or even key players. For planning purposes, since this is about rebuilding, it might also be helpful to use a maximum age, a cut-off for players being included in future plans. Finally, it might be useful to think not just about individual players, but types of players that should get priority, and there are more types to consider, I think, than just vets and prospects, partly because rights on players expire, and partly because both sheer talent and years of experience affect who makes it in the NHL. A less talented player can be more NHL-ready. Meanwhile, the rights clock is ticking.
I'll try to suggest some things the Canes might consider in rebuilding and then ask for opinion on how the Canes should determine the roster and lines for this season.Suppose the Canes set the cut-off age for the rebuilding program at 27 for current planning purposes (perhaps 30 when the rebuilding program pays full dividends). Then the key players for the long term might be Staal (25), Ward and Pitkanen (26), Jokinen, Ruutu and Gleason (27), Sutter (21) and McBain (22). That's eight players: four forwards, three defensemen and a goalie.
The guys who are out of the Hurricanes' future plans by virtue of age are Cole, Kostopoulos, Samsonov, and LaRose. The guys who might be out because of talent level are Harrison and Dwyer.
For the future, after the core of seven key young players, there's a second tier of players who seem clearly NHL caliber, although not necessarily really good at the NHL level. I'd say the candidates for that tier might include Peters (23), Dwyer (26) and do include (assuming he signs) Carson (24) and Babchuk (26). You could argue that Tlusty should go here, but I'd put him in another category (below).
A third tier consists of young but more mature players who might have a chance to play successfully in the NHL. Candidates for this list include Picard (24), Borer (24), Matsumoto (23), and perhaps Kyle Lawson (23) and Nick Dodge (24).
The top prospects who might be nearing the NHL and might have high potential in the NHL would make up a fourth tier. Candidates for that might include Boychuk (20), Dalpe (20), Sanguinetti (22), Bowman (21), Samson (22) and perhaps Riley Nash (21), Chris Terry (21), and Oscar Osala (22). I'd put Tlusty (22) here instead of in the second tier based on some limited reading and watching a few videos.
Then there are other very young high-level prospects who are probably farther away. This fifth tier would include Jeff Skinner, Brian Dumoulin, Jared Staal, Justin Faulk, Mark Alt, Danny Biega, Mike Murphy, and perhaps Mattias Lindstrom and Justin Shugg. Dumoulin's outstanding freshman year at BC makes it look as though he might get to the NHL sooner than originally thought--perhaps after another year instead of three years. Skinner might be able to jump straight to the NHL.
Given this situation, you could decide to go this year with whatever combination of players from the NHL roster and prospects will enable the Canes to win the most games now. Those players, including all vets regardless of age, would get key line assignments and playing time. But that would allocate lots of time to four or five forwards and one defenseman who don't fit the rebuilding plan.
Or you could argue that the Canes should use this year to find out exactly how good the second and third tier, the more experienced players on the brink, can become, if given ample NHL time. The thought is that the Canes could assess the more mature players, decide which if any to keep, and get maximum value for those they decide not to keep. Meanwhile the younger prospects would get valuable experience at other levels.
But you could definitely make the case that it's most important to find out as soon as possible how high the ceiling is on the players you think are the very best prospects. You might also want to find out quickly about the players who could fill important roles that nobody on the Canes currently does fill. These players might belong in the long-term core of key talent. Since that core is what the Canes should plan the future around, deciding who belongs is an urgent priority. If you think this way, you would push Boychuk, Skinner, Dalpe, Tlusty, Bowman, Samson, Osala, Jared Staal, and perhaps some other young players as far and fast as possible. You would find out this year whether Samson can score big and otherwise compete in the NHL, whether Osala or Staal could be the missing presence in front of the net, and whether Tlusty is the big-time player the Leafs thought they were drafting.
If you look at Canes' prospects through the prism described above, what do you think the Canes will do? What do you think they should do?